Kim Frandsen, author of Heaven & Hell: Aasimar & Tiefling Ancestries for Pathfinder 2, kindly agreed to do a guest post about his Keeping It Classy series, which is available on the DMs Guild. Take it away, Kim!
Keeping It Classy
Today, I’m here to talk about fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and more specifically a series of books that I’ve been releasing, called Keeping It Classy.
A Series is Born…
So what prompted these books? Well, it was a series of conversations with fifth edition players and people who’d been having a sniff at Pathfinder (this all started before Pathfinder Second Edition came out). And the one thing that seemed to connect all of these experienced players (most had been playing for a few years) was that they felt tied down to the options given in the Player’s Handbook. For example, the barbarian only has two standard options in the PHB: Path of the Berserker and Path of the Totem Warrior.
When I started toying with the idea of various characters from fiction and myth, it struck me that it was a very limited view of what the barbarian could be. So, one evening, I sat down and started brainstorming — to see which fictional characters would fulfill the criteria of a barbarian, but who wouldn’t necessarily fit within those two paths. Rather quickly I had a long list of characters ranging from Conan (the classic barbarian, who you could, at a squeeze, fit into the Berserker, but who was really more of the “noble savage” type), Achilles (the warrior who could not be damaged), all the way over to more esoteric characters like Mr. Hyde (from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) or He-Man.
The idea of more barbarian paths was born, and I set a few goals for these. There had to be something new and unique to each path (this wasn’t so much of an issue for the Barbarian and Bard, but we’ll get to the Cleric), and I wanted there to be a plethora of options. So, my shortlist ended up being 15 different, and new, paths, all with new and unique powers.
That got me wondering: where do these people come from? Again, there are a number of backgrounds in the Player’s Handbook, but some of the character tropes that you typically see for barbarians weren’t covered, so the book ended up with 5 new backgrounds too. Of course, that got me thinking about races and equipment, until I eventually had a full book on my hands.
When The Barbarian was released, one of the first questions I got was “So, what other classes are you doing? Can I have X?” While I’d originally intended The Barbarian to be a once-off thing, I started digging into various classes and found that a lot of them had the same issue that the barbarian did, that there simply wasn’t that much choice to be had in how you made your character (the bard for example, also only has two options in the PHB, the College of Lore and the College of Valor). I realized that all of the classes, in one form or another, are a bit underserved with the options in the core books.
Now you’ll see that I’ve specifically mentioned the amount of paths/colleges available to the barbarian and bard, but that was not the issue facing the cleric. The cleric has 7 domains to choose from, but you’ll notice that a LOT of the powers are recycled or reskinned versions of each other — and DAMMIT, I want my character to be unique, not just a copy-paste of another domain. It bothered me a lot (and The Cleric took me a lot longer to write than The Barbarian and The Bard) as I wanted each domain to not only have unique powers but also to feel like they belong in a fantasy setting. This gave birth to The Cleric, and it’s 15 new domains, all tied to mythology and the existing pantheons in D&D, and all with unique powers that only they have.
In essence, I want to give you, the player, the option to make the character YOU want to make, not just the one intended by the writers of the Player’s Handbook, while maintaining the accessibility of fifth edition.